With the news of our current young superstar’s season coming to an end Monday night, I have long been pondering a thought that connects him to THE superstar of our fandom.

Honestly, I’ve kinda been metacognating the thought as opposed to pondering. As the girl I was crushing on my sophomore year explained to me, “To Metacognate is to basically think about thinking.” Yup. It was in that moment that I knew she was way too smart for me.

But back to my point. When we acquired Shai, as he went on his ASGA campaign (All-Star), and even this year as he went through his Jekyll and Hyde season, I couldn’t help but notice something.

He is the polar opposite of Russ in almost every way.

At the summit of our respective rebuilds, in both instances we have been championed by a young guard.

But honestly, that’s kinda where the similarities stop.

In the games following the All-Star Break one has been on an absolute tear following a pretty meh start to the year, and one has drawn the bare brunt of criticism for his teams lackluster play.

The first of which goes by many names; The Brodie, The Westbeast, The King of the Prairie, Mr. Triple Double, Russ, the incomparable… Russell Westbrook.

While the current guard is simply referred to as his initials; SGA. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

This is not a kick him while he’s down piece. Russ is going through undoubtedly the most challenging season of his career. But before all of that, he is what originally drew me to OKC in the first place. His unbreakable demeanor, his seemingly nonstop output of energy, his passionate drive to prove his haters wrong. I have spent literal days, not hours, defending Russ against my friends, family, God, and country. I lived and died by Russ.

Rather, this is a just a thought exercise that I wanted to talk out to a multitude of people through a computer or phone screen.

This isn’t going to be organized, or put together in any way, shape, or form. This is a journey into my mind, where we don’t separate the M&M’s by color, but we are constantly having spaghetti. It’s messy, you can play with it, but whatever happens it tastes good.

Russell Westbrook as a basketball player is LOUD. It’s honestly part of what makes Russ who he is. It 1000% is what makes watching him play so exciting. He yells (and flexes) after finishing through contact, he rocks the baby when he scores on someone in the post, he means mugs and stomps after he dunks on dudes, and he is constantly talking to the officials.

I don’t think it’s fair to outright call Shai quiet (see: “I’M HIM”), but he’s definitely more of an understated basketball player. It’s business as usual when finishing an and-1 layup, he daps up his teammates and heads to the free throw line. He’s stopped even looking at the refs if he suspects there was missed contact. And the ONE celebration that Shai had, he hasn’t done since his first year in OKC and it’s truly a travesty (RIP the baby Yoda [Grogu if you’re nerdy {Like I am}]).

Jon Hamm said as much on Thunder After Dark in a perfect comparison; “Russell Westbrook was a Michael Bay film. There was a lot of explosions, positive and negative. Shai is more of an artsy film, one that is going to be nominated for a best picture award that you’ve probably never heard of.“

Let me tell y’all, the Transformers movies were LOUD.

At this point you either totally see the vision, or you’re very confused and just twisting the spaghetti on your fork. So let’s dive into more.

Coming out of the draft, Russ was a slashing shooting guard who then had to learn how to be a point guard in the NBA. Ironically enough, Shai was one of the top point guards in his class and has had to learn how to play more off of the ball to maximize his teams level of play.

Russ is a straight line driver, who has the ability to detonate to the rim with his unparalleled, otherworldly athleticism. Shai has an unorthodox drive style, he lulls his defender to relaxation with different paces of dribbling as well driving, then he literally slithers his was to the basket and rarely finishes with any shot other than a jaw dropping scoop layup.

Russ explodes to the rim like he is Tenya Iida with booster engines in his calves (Shoutout My Hero gang), Shai can still get up and dunk the ball with fury but nowhere near the ferocity of the Westbeast. Russ dunks on people, Shai kinda dunks around people.

January 17th of this year was the best example of this.

Russ absolutely obliterated Rudy Gobert with a poster dunk. Like put this man in a grave, wrote a eulogy, sent flowers to the family, and mourned over his passing. It was legitimately one of his best dunks ever, and that’s saying something.

Shai on the same night, in a different state (obviously), also had an impressive dunk. Not as ferocious, its not a one hand tomahawk, and you could even argue its not actually on Kristaps Porzingis, but rather around him.

There are levels to this athleticism stuff. They are not the same.

You could argue however, that Shai has more skill as a basketball player compared to Russ. He has more shake to his dribble, he moves the ball more (not just at the end of plays), he has more of a finishing package, and… this is the big one…. he can shoot.

Before you throw meatballs at me, and tell me “hE sHoT tHiRtY pErCeNt ThIs YeAr FrOm ThReE” I ask you to look at the context. The players around him, the team shooting (32.1% from 3, to put into perspective that’s the lowest a Thunder team has shot from 3 since the team moved from Seattle), and the type of shots he was taking early in year, and its pretty plain to see why he struggled early on. Post ASB, he focused on picking his spots better, and his 3 point percentage reflected that.

There is ultimately nothing wrong with either player, they’re just different.

Take Johnny Lawrence and Danny LaRusso. Cobra Kai, not Karate Kid.

LaRusso teaches Karate the way that his mentor, Mr. Miyagi, trained him. It is an understated style aptly named Miyagi-Do. In Miyagi-Do you don’t attack first, you act in self defense. But really the essence of the style is balance.

Lawrence on the other hand, teaches a style he also learned from his then (uh.. and then again?) mentor, it is a much more in your face style that believes the best defense is more offense, and accentuates yelling, anger, and testosterone when demonstrated. Its foundation is founded on 3 core principles; Strike first, strike hard, no mercy! (The most possible emphasis on the exclamation point.)

Spoilers for if you haven’t seen Cobra Kai to follow, but if you haven’t watched it yet what are you actually doing with your life?

Anyways, here is the spoiler, both methods work in their own way. Cobra Kai is loud and flashy, and yes the have their share of success. While Miyagi-Do is more unique, and not as exciting but they still spawn success as well.

Shai is balance, Russ is No Mercy!

All in all, there are more differences such as team success with Russ, and actually more similarities with both being labeled the “Drip King” for the bold and and fearless fashion choices.

The bottom line is this, while they are polar opposites there is one common denominator and it is no doubt THE common denominator between them.

They both helped to usher in a new era of Thunder basketball, they are beloved by their fans, and we are fortunate enough that each of these guys went to work every night with Oklahoma City across their chest.